Honda Civic Type R ups the Green Hell ante with new front-wheel drive record
It’s become the battleground of choice for performance car makers, who field their fastest machines in an attempt to earn the ultimate in bragging rights: a Nürburgring lap record.
Also known as the Green Hell, the 20,8 km Nürburgring Nordschleife circuit twists and turns its way through western Germany’s Eifel forests, presenting car and driver with 73 corners – and very little in the way of run-off. One mistake here can spell disaster.
That’s exactly why the track is a favourite among development engineers, who benchmark and hone the chassis and suspension set-up of their prototype passenger cars here before they’re cleared for final production. And, of course, they like to establish new lap records in the process.
The Nürburgring isn’t just the preserve of exotics like Porsche and Lamborghini. It’s become the proving ground for a growing number of hot hatchbacks, with the likes of Seat, Renault, Volkswagen and Honda all targeting top honours.
Renault’s previous-generation Mégane RS 275 Cup was one of the first front-wheel drive hot hatches to break the 8min barrier, and held the record with a time of 7min 54sec until Honda’s 2015 Civic Type R stole the lap record crown with a 7min 50sec lap.
Volkswagen surprised Nordschleife aficionados by posting a 7min 47sec lap time in the Golf Clubsport S (of which only a handful made it to SA last year). But now, there’s a new front-wheel drive King Of The Ring: the 2017 Honda Civic Type R, which has upped the ante with a new record time of 7min 43,8sec.
According to Honda, the time was set in ideal conditions on 3 April, using a development car conforming to the power and weight of a standard production model. The record breaker was fitted with a roll cage in the interests of safety, with the infotainment system and rear seats removed to compensate for the cage’s extra weight.
The new-gen Type R, which was officially unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show in March, is credited with 235 kW of max power, linked to 400 Nm of torque, from its reworked 2,0-litre turbo engine. The ratios of the six-speed gearbox are more closely stacked, which benefits acceleration and response.
The latest Type R is 16 kg lighter and 38 percent stiffer than its predecessor, allowing a power to weight ratio of 174,7 kW/ton. A wider track and fatter rubber also contribute to the car’s higher cornering speeds and improved stability, which were the key contributors to the new lap record.
While Honda will enjoy being at the top of the Nürburgring lap record list, it probably won’t be for long: Renault is readying its next-generation Mégane RS, and will certainly have Green Hell glory in its sights.